Lakewood Briefs – January 31, 2021

LAKEWOOD -

Lakewood COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Rising Quickly

COVID cases and hospitalizations continued to increase significantly last week.

The weekly toll of positive tests from the Ocean County Health Department for last week was 689. The actual number of infections is likely significantly higher than officially reported as cases have become very widespread in town over the last two weeks. The previous week’s tally was 406.

The amount of positive cases has been climbing incrementally since an outbreak in September was quelled, but numbers have begun to multiply far more rapidly over the past month or so.

The level of COVID related hospitalizations and those suffering serious complications has also steadily increased. Those who are seemingly at higher risk as well seems to have shifted somewhat, possibly due to the circulation of newer strains first identified in Great Britain and South Africa. While the virus initially hit the elderly hardest, there have recently been significantly more younger people especially women ages 35-45. Many expectant mothers have experienced a higher level of complications and hospitalizations.

Ocean County Vaccine Allotment Cut

As slow as the COVID vaccine roll-out has been until now, it seems poised to slow further in Ocean County where the state announced that weekly allotments will be cut by 40 percent for the foreseeable future, according to a report by the Asbury Park Press.

The cut back comes amid a national shortage of the vaccines currently in use and will affect all of New Jersey’s counties, which receive distribution according to their population size.

Ocean County had been receiving 5,000 per week, but will now be cut to 3,000. The county’s Health Department stopped making new appointments for its central distribution sites in Toms River over two weeks ago. Several other sites, including Lakewood’s CHEMED Health Center have sporadically opened up new appointment slots which can be made via their COVID vaccine appointment line, 732-523-7955.

Even the short supply that exists is still limited in the state to those who fit into 1a and 1b categories, which include individuals over 65, people with underlying conditions that create increased risk of serious illness from COVID, those living in congregant settings, and frontline healthcare workers.

As of last week, 13,000 had been vaccinated in Ocean County. According to estimates over 30 percent of residents should presently qualify to receive the vaccine.

Governor Phil Murphy has set a goal to vaccinate 70 percent of the state by summer, which would require Ocean County to deliver some 4,000 per day to its population of over 600,000. Daily vaccinations in the county have typically been between 250 and 500.

Rep. Smith Welcomes Federal Vaccine Funding for NJ

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) welcomed an announcement that New Jersey is set to receive $216,000,000 in reimbursement for COVID vaccination expenses as part of the federal Coronavirus relief package.

Monies will primarily go to assist the state’s six vaccine “mega sites.” Several of the mass sites in the state have closed due to lack of supply and logistical failures. The funds should aid operation, but will not likely do much to alleviate the lack of supply.

“People across New Jersey are eager to move ahead and receive the vaccine,” said Rep. Smith. “We must not let up, but instead redouble our efforts to ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that vaccines can be distributed as they are available—including 24 hours a day if necessary. I will do everything I can to ensure the federal government remains a robust partner in our state’s efforts to get this vaccine to the people who need it, as fast as possible.”

The funds which come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are earmarked to cover costs of medical supplies, containers for medical waste, transportation and proper storage of the vaccines, medical and support staff, and PPE among other onsite infection control and disinfection.

The state’s allotment is part of a $45 billion appropriation to FEMA as part of the (CARES) Act of 2020.